Dumb Animals??? Careful how you point the finger!

I think there’s a great deal that we could learn from the animals around us – and no, this isn’t a plug for the BBC’s Countryfile show. Instead my thoughts have been directed by a couple of things that happened to me last week.

The first was a chat I had with a friend who I know from the financial industry. He was saying that as a species we have progressively ignored the sixth sense that other animals have but which we deny. This has led, in turn, to us putting ourselves in danger – financial and otherwise – because we fail to heed the little voice in the back of our minds which quietly advises when something doesn’t feel right about a given situation. So car crashes happen, financial fraud continues and incorrect assumptions are made. In our ignorance to claim that we are better than “dumb” animals we have become supreme – at getting things wrong. I agree with a lot of what my friend told me too. Max, my crossbreed Whippet, usually knows when either Lois or I are on our way home from work. Max pricks up her ears and starts to call out – I’ve witnessed it for myself. Some say that it’s her keen hearing which enables her to do this – but how can it be if we’re inside a car miles away when she starts such behaviour? She’s empathetic but without anyone speaking a word – how often are humans like that?

The other thing was a remarkable evening of entertainment at The Castle Theatre in Wellingborough last Saturday. Lloyd and Rose Buck are the husband and wife team who have built careers out of a love of birds – imprinting with and then training everything from starlings to owls, hawks, ravens and eagles. Regularly their work involves naturalists like David Attenborough and Chris Packham. But above all, it is their interaction with their birds and the mutual respect between bird and human which struck me. They explained from the stage the abilities of each bird they work with, their characters as individuals and the affection that flows in both directions. It wasn’t just stage talk either. Through the course of the evening the couple brought out a succession of birds which flew around the theatre, returning to their handlers by swooping and wheeling directly over the heads of a captivated audience. I have always rather taken birds for granted – I’ve seen aerial tricks before and I’ve marvelled at the training skills of the humans who work with them, but I’d never really thought about it from the perspective of the birds themselves. For them, the tricks are just what they do with their equals – the humans. Which begs the question – who has the upper hand in the relationship?!

And of course there’s the perspective of the humans involved in all of this. Painstakingly Lloyd and Rose demonstrated how they had trained their feathered charges – literally by living and sleeping with them around the clock, bird poo and all. They also exhibited how perhaps the birds had done a little training of their own. I found it fascinating how many people in the audience seemed to have a real appreciation of the birds and their human handlers equally. I’m not sure who they were more enthralled by, but it seemed like the totality of their teamwork was what really made an impression. I’ve certainly never seen anything like it before-

We could perhaps do with more sanity in our frantic 24/7 world. Maybe we should be learning from our feathered friends who constantly observe, but never speak a word.